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Friday, February 04, 2005

The Triumph Of Hope Over Experience

That's what people say about second marriages. Does it hold true for this?

I find it hard to believe that the Lakers would be willing to endure the return of the biggest professional coaching soap opera since George Steinbrenner kept on punching holes in Billy Martin's dance card as Yankee manager in the 1970's. Regardless of who is the coach, the real difference in these Lakers from the Lakers of a year ago and before is that they do not have Shaquille O'Neal in the middle.

That's a big difference. (Sure, they don't have Phil Jackson, but even Red Auerbach and John Wooden didn't lace up the old Converse high-tops for the squads they coached; you still need the players to score the points).

Then again, this could be one of the ultimate challenges for Phil Jackson. After all, the knock on him (and it doesn't come from me) is that he's only won as many titles as he has because he's had more talent than anyone else (Jordan and Pippen, O'Neal and Bryant). This time, it's clear that if he can steer this particular group of hoopsters to a title, it will prove to be his finest body of work ever.

Phil Jackson has toured the world and has had a taste of life without basketball. Kobe Bryant has toured the NBA, and he's gotten a taste of life without Phil Jackson. It may be that neither is satisfied with what he has right now, but does that mean that either one of them really wants the other? What's to say that Phil Jackson won't want to coach the Knicks (if he can co-exist with Isiah Thomas)? And what's to say that he won't end up coaching the T-wolves and return to his native Midwest (if he can co-exist with Kevin McHale)?

And what's to say that someone else cannot coach the Lakers? The conventional wisdom is that career assistant Frank Hamblin is a placeholder, and while that's no reach at all, the second part of the purported wisdom being offered is that the Lakers won't just settle for any old coach -- they want someone who has champion written all over him. It's hard to think of who that coach may be -- other than Phil Jackson.

Watch this one closely. It may be that this story is just filler on an otherwise slow hoops news day. Or it may be that there is something to it.

Just remember this: a great coach can only do so much. The Lakers have talent, but they probably don't have enough at this juncture to win a title. Because that's the case, it's hard to see Phil Jackson returning to L.A.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is North dakota part of the Midwest?

3:48 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

If you are from the East and lived in the West and never in between, it probably is. But you are right, it really isn't, and my guess is that North Dakotans would be offended. Still, NoDak is pretty close to Minnesota. Thanks for pointing out the error.

4:09 PM  

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